WHILE not every sports editor has yet to fully grasp the readership potential of reporting it, there is no denying that Scottish women’s football is on the rise.
Last season, my club – Glasgow City FC – reached the last 16 of the Champions League. If you didn’t know already, we are an amateur club, not by choice, and our players give up all of their free time to train, up to ten times a week.
In the end, we were knocked out by a side whose income completely ‘blows out of the water’ the entire budget for the whole of the women’s game in this country.
Are the achievements of my club deserving of investment and column inches?
Well, you might consider the media coverage Celtic has recently gained by reaching exactly the same stage of its Champions League competition.
Meanwhile, our women’s national team is ranked 23rd in the world.
Might its achievements be deserving of investment and column inches?
Well, the men’s national team is ranked 64th. I am a proud supporter of everything Scottish and I follow the men’s team as much as I follow the women’s. Indeed, was at France ’98 as part of the Tartan Army. But if 23rd in the world does not merit achievement and, in turn, investment and publicity, I am not sure what does? .
I actually don’t find any comparison between the male game and the female game particularly productive as it is like comparing apples and oranges.
As you may have guessed, I am responding to the article last week by the Daily Record’s Gordon Parks. Mr Park’s column was, in my opinion, one of the most outrageous pieces of journalism I have encountered in a long time and which has prompted many of his fellow journalists to be as despairing as me.
Parks said there was no justification for the £1.2 million annual budget that goes into it Scottish women’s football – which covers everything from grassroots to development officers, to all staff and the cost of running the national teams at all age groups. He also made sneering comments about equality, as if, somehow, it was wrong to suggest that this should be a reason for investment.
It is only very rarely that you can have success without investment and, the more you invest, the greater the chance you have of producing top sports stars. Even just last weekend, Scottish athlete, Eilidh Child, won a silver and gold at the European Indoor Championships, a phenomenal achievement. Is it any surprise that Eilidh cites being able to go full-time, two years ago, as being the main ingredient to her success and medal haul?
You cannot have role models that are accessible to the public unless the media make the public aware of them.
There seems to be a bit of confusion between the difference between a role model and being a media sports celebrity. Not all role models are media stars and similarly not all media stars are role models, but when we live in a society where Scotland is third-bottom in the EU for girls reaching the recommended level of sporting activity, perhaps the media should take more responsibility to ensure our female sporting role models become media stars.
I am delighted to say there has been nothing but a backlash for Mr Parks from fellow journalists and the general public, but we need to make this wave of opinion count and for the media to increase its coverage of female sports massively.
According to research conducted by the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation after the Olympics in London last year, 75 per cent of adults want to see increased media coverage of women’s sport as part of the Games’ legacy, and 81 per cent think our sportswomen are better role models than other female celebrities.
Surely, these facts cannot go ignored any longer and women in this country can start to achieve more coverage and improve on the estimated less than five per cent of media coverage they currently get. The role models exist and the interest exists if journalists like Mr Parks would just let the public be aware of them.
Laura Montgomery is club manager of Glasgow City FC.